Gas Station Gourmet
Made with Passion
Great food is born of great passion. Chef Robert Scott, co-owner of America’s Street Foods, offers customers culinary experiences far beyond their expectation of gas station food. “I can talk food all day. When people see how passionate I am, they want to see more,” he said.
The classically trained chef has gone from an upscale restaurant to a food cart and now to a unique eatery tucked inside the Highway 10 Gas and Market in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Scott left his restaurant job to follow his dream. “I wanted to do my own thing. The food-truck scene is very popular here,” he said.
Then came the restaurant. The c-store goes back to the 1970s and was once known for its barbecue. However, the restaurant space was sitting empty in 2021 when Scott and his business partner, Adam Shuffield, checked out the location. They opened in May of that year.
FLEXIBLE AND UPSCALE FOOD
Scott had a vision for the direction of America’s Street Foods. Flexibility was important. “We wanted to be known for great burgers and pulled pork. We wanted to be able to be more modern or more traditional,” he said.
“We started with cheesesteaks, pulled pork, our signature hotdogs and Reubens. The Reuben goes back to the food cart. We didn’t have a lot of refrigeration. We made it as a sub. When we got here, we made it a traditional Reuben,” Scott said.
The restaurant makes its own corned beef and Thousand Island dressing for the Reuben. The burger is fresh-ground ribeye, and the pulled pork is smoked for 14 hours.
Customers can tell the difference. “I had a guy come in from North Carolina. Someone told him to come check us out. He said it was the best Reuben he’s ever had.”
Scott didn’t want to create what people might think of as gas station food. “I wanted to make it more upscale. I didn’t want to sell myself short as a chef,” he said.
The team gradually upgraded the menu, adding chicken parmesan, then chicken Alfredo and even a mushroom bordelaise. Tomatoes used in the sauces come from San Marzano, Italy, or California.
An attention getter is the baconwrapped pork loin stuffed with cornbread stuffing, feta cheese, sundried tomato and buffalo mozzarella.
Made with buffalo milk, the cheese helps America’s Street Foods differentiate its menu. “We want to be different and stand out and create a new flavor,” Scott said, adding that his team also uses buffalo mozzarella on pizza and in salads. The cheese was a little hard to source in Little Rock at the outset, he says, “but now with the consistent orders it gets here pretty quick.”
Of course, a great meal is not complete without dessert. “From banana pudding to crème brûlée, we’re trying to get more consistent with desserts,” Scott said.
The regular customers are fans of the plate lunch specials like meatloaf, which is made from ribeye ground into beef.
“People call every day and want to know what the special is. It’s like Christmas to them,” Scott said.
BRINGING IN CUSTOMERS
Scott sees benefits with the c-store location. The convenience store is the draw—and then customers discover the restaurant.
“People come in for a drink or gas. When they discover us, they leave with a burger,” Scott said. “It turns into repeat business. They bring their friends. We’re the conversation topic. ‘Man, I got this burger in a gas station.’ ‘Really? Is it good?’ They get curious. They come back and try it,” he said. “We get new people each day.”
The location is a win for the store, too. “We piggyback off each other. They sell the drinks.”
If you’re creating great food in a c-store, catering can be a stream of revenue and a way to introduce your food to potential customers. “We’ve done some amazing catering,” Scott said. “I’ve always done catering, but it picked up more after moving into the building. We catered for an exclusive golf course. We catered the Miss High School America pageant for five days,” he said.
“With the catering, I offer pans of this or that. Everything is for just that event. I ask about likes, what they want. We create a menu with that.”
Social media plays a big role in a successful food program. The photos of the food on the Facebook page of America’s Street Foods are beautiful.
“You eat with your eyes. It looks good, and then you come in and try it. We have a set menu that we do, and we post our specials on Facebook. If there’s something we need to push, we try to feature it,” he said.
Scott uses Instagram and Snapchat as well. “More older people use Facebook. Younger people use Instagram. A young guy suggested when we post to Facebook, we post to Instagram with a reel. You can just take pictures and it makes a collage, and it hits a lot more people.”
When it comes to the future, Scott said, “The sky’s the limit. We’re looking to branch out to downtown. In the long run this could be a franchise. I’d like to keep the menu, expand with a wrapped up package deal.”